Letter to the editor, with response

[Editor’s note: The following is a letter to the editor (addressed to University President Bruce Speck) that arrived in the office after the Dec. 5 issue went to press. It has also appeared as a guest column in The Joplin Globe. Today, The Chart was copied on Speck’s reply. We are publishing both here.]

What effect will the changes and funding cuts (especially those affecting the University’s international mission) have on Missouri Southern graduates in the future? The answer is difficult to provide, at least in detail. Surely, they will not be as prepared as innovative thinkers able to meet the increasingly complex demands of a global market. Certainly, they will not graduate with the same unique and beneficial experiences afforded to their predecessors. And lastly, their alma mater will continue to suffer in terms of both enrollment and reputation.

I write this letter as an alumnus of Missouri Southern’s Communications Department, who has a student took great advantage of both the international opportunities made possible by the University’s unique mission and the more “domestic” opportunities made possible by the attitude and commitment of its (former) administration.

My concern is not new. However, after months of keeping tabs on the University, and its newspaper The Chart, I can no longer sit back without comment. Since August of this year, and the announcement of deep funding cuts to the international mission, I have watched from my office in Cairo with mounting consternation. My vantage point did not improve, however, and my concern was furthered when the University’s award winning newspaper was banned from appearing at an event targeting perspective students. As of The Chart‘s Dec. 5th edition, I find further cause for concern not only in the news of further cuts to funding for travel and other opportunities that defined my experience at the university, but also through the languid attitude (and perhaps reckless disregard) for that aspect of the university that most defined my experience there.

Like many other alumni who took advantage of this unique theme and focus, I hold the international opportunities obtained through the University as one of the main pillars of the success and experience that I have enjoyed in my professional career. In my time at Missouri Southern I was privileged to travel to twice to Paris and once to Austria to attend academic programs that have made a direct impact on my career. Not only were these opportunities a unique learning experience, but they are also a source of several, now long-term, relationships that continue to serve me in my work as a media consultant.

Beyond the international options afforded to students at the University, my experience at Missouri Southern revealed an institution committed to creating opportunities for students at all levels. As Associate Editor of the University’s award winning newspaper, The Chart, Missouri Southern funded the opportunity for me to travel to Des Moines, Iowa, and Manchester, New Hampshire to cover the primary elections in 2004, an expense personally approved by your predecessor Dr. Julio Léon.

This commitment not only reflected the University’s dedication to the enrichment of its students, but also its dedication to constantly promoting and improving itself. At that time Missouri Southern was the only college newspaper outside of the Des Moines or Manchester areas to have student reporters on the ground at events of national significance. The Chart was the only collegiate newspaper in the United States to be represented at both of these key political events.

I recognize that the current economic and financial climate calls for action in order to cut costs. However, I return to my original question: What effect will the changes and funding cuts have on Missouri Southern graduates in the future? As you face what Pasadena Now Publisher James Macphearson has called a “General Motors Moment”-but with no one to bail you out, I urge you to consider the consequences of these cuts on the future careers of students now attending the University. The funds dedicated to areas such as the international mission are not expenses of the University. Rather, they are a sound investment in the future of the institution. I can say with confidence, that I would not be where I am today, without the availability of such unique programs.


Jonathan H. BeVilleVice President, CommunicationsBeringer GroupMohandeseen, GizaEgypt


Thank you for your email. I’m always glad to hear from those who have graduated from Southern and have insights about the university. As a business person, you undoubtedly appreciate the need to evaluate all aspects of a business, so I have been in the process of reviewing how the university operates. I must say that I have been disappointed in the lack of accountability throughout the university. It appears that we have not evaluated the effectiveness of a variety of programs, and such an approach is neither in the best interests of the university nor good business practice.

The evaluation of the university operations is a necessary activity, one intensified first, by a three-year record of deficit spending that has depleted our cash reserves, leaving us in a very precarious position economically, and second, by the call from the state for budget scenarios for the next fiscal year that would eliminate 15%, 20%, and 25% of our state support. Each percent equals about a quarter million dollars for us. In addition, we may also be asked to reduce our spring budget by 5%. In such a climate, we are working very hard to determine how we can ensure that the university is solvent and goes through this economic downturn so that we are poised to prosper in the future.

The context for budget reductions leaves us little room for flexibility. I think you will see cuts in all kinds of budgets for the next fiscal year, so the international mission will not stand alone in terms of budget reductions. Even in the light of budget constraints, I am a proponent of the international mission. This does not mean that I find the way we have expended our resources on the international mission makes the most sense to me. Thus, I have asked questions about why we do what we do, and I have often be given responses that are incomplete, sometimes contradictory, and a bit baffling. However, I think it is beyond dispute that international travel can be a vital catalyst in promoting a student’s education. That is not up for discussion. What is up for discussion is how to fund the internationalization of the campus, including international travel.

We will continue to investigate the mission and attempt to find solutions to our economic needs. I suspect we will begin a campaign for those who have profited from the mission to make monetary contributions to an endowment. I hope that you will help us in raising funds for the international mission, especially because you are an ardent proponent of the need for international travel to prepare students for work in this flat world, as Freeman calls it.

I appreciate your concerns regarding Missouri Southern, and as we move forward in promoting support for the international mission, a representative from Southern will be in touch with you.